LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - U.S. Senator Rand Paul can't overlook the Commonwealth's largest city on Election Eve, even though a Halloween Eve poll showed him leading his Democratic challenger, Jim Gray, by 16 percentage points.
"I don't know about you, but I'm taxed enough, I'm regulated enough and I'm ready to be left alone," Paul told a gathering of well-wishers at Bowman Field on Monday.
"I'm not gonna tell anybody who to vote for for President," Gray told reporters following a get-out-the-vote stop at IBEW Local #369 on Preston Highway on Monday morning.
Paul has all but ignored Gray publicly, but his speeches and campaign advertising -- his own and interest groups' -- have sought to tie the two-term Lexington mayor to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, as a "coal killer" and "puppet."
"Hillary Clinton shouldn't be allowed within 10 miles of the White House," Paul told the Bowman crowd.
Gray, who termed Monday's Louisville stop as the "Kentucky First, Always" tour, worked in the phrase he road-tested during his only face-to-face debate with Paul: a candidates' forum on KET on Halloween.
"His wild-ass theories, his ideas, they're not mainstream," Gray said. "They're not gonna build the first bridge, highway or factory. They're not gonna create the first job."
Paul's call for a Balanced Budget Amendment, and the running Debt Clock he keeps in his Senate office are proof that he misunderstands the difference between debt and deficits, and how business works, Gray told his KET audience.
"Debt tied with equity is what makes a business run, and what makes a country run," Gray said.
Gray claims his family-owned, billion-dollar construction business has created more than 20,000 jobs. Low-interest bond rates, he says, are proof that the markets have confidence in the economic recovery, so much so that America could handle the additional debt load of infrastructure improvements to build, or repair, highways and bridges and expand high-speed internet service.
Paul maintains that the federal budget already has the money, but Congress needs to redirect the spending.
"Instead of building bridges in Afghanistan or Pakistan, lets build them at home," Paul said.
Senator and challenger both support CARA - the federal Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act - as critical to battling Kentucky's heroin scourge.
"People I think are addicted to drugs because of a broken spirit," said Paul, an ophthalmologist by training. "I think that a religious element, a
faith-based element in the cure is imperative."
Responded Gray: "Senator Paul voted for (CARA), but he voted against funding. We need that funding in cities across the country."
"What we need to do is to pass individual appropriations bills," Paul said.
Instead, CARA funding was piggy-backed onto other wasteful spending; yet another reason that Presidents should be able to veto individual items in spending bills, he said. Kentucky and Indiana Governors have line-item veto power.
"You have to end the regulatory war on coal," Paul said. "We have to convince Democrats of this because we have one Democrat who will vote with us on regulatory reform."
Gray's platform calls for more spending to develop cleaner coal technology, using an existing $8 billion federal loan program to pay for research projects. He'd use some of those dollars to retrain unemployed minors for new work. He would expand tax incentives to encourage new businesses in coal counties and reward existing businesses that add jobs and expand operations.
Gray criticized Kentucky's senior Senator, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, for his refusal to hold confirmation hearings for Merrick Garland, President Obama's nominee to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created when Justice Antonin Scalia died Feb. 13.
"Another example of the gridlock and dysfunction in our system," Gray said.
Paul demurred as to whether he supports McConnell's refusal to consider any nomination until Obama leaves office.
"I will support any nominee that pledges to uphold the separation-of-powers doctrine to the Constitution," Paul said.
Paul has referred to Obama's regulation of coal emissions as an example of "over-reach" into powers reserved for the Legislative branch.
Each has accused the other of hypocrisy.
Gray, for Paul pressuring Kentucky Republicans to hold a caucus so that he could seek the GOP Presidential nomination while running for re-election, though he ended his White House run before the caucus was held.
Paul, in turn, has accused Gray of using the Lexington Mayor's office as a stepping stone of his own.
Metro Mayor Greg Fischer, former Gov. Steve Beshear, and U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth (Kentucky 3rd District) accompanied Gray on his Louisville stop. Cooperation between Kentucky's two largest cities "created jobs, created exports" Fischer said.
"We're gonna have a very good field operation to get out the vote," Yarmuth said.
Strong showings in Lexington and Louisville offer Gray the only hope for an upset Tuesday. The effort is as much a push for down-ballot races such as the Kentucky General Assembly.
Louisville Democrat Larry Clark and Republican Bob DeWeese are among the eight house members not seeking re-election. Democrats hold a 53-45 (Republicans vacated two of the open seats prior to Nov. 8) advantage; the only legislative chamber in a Southern state not under Republican control.
Flipping the House would give Republicans their first majority in Kentucky's lower chamber in 95 years.
"It's really important that we get a good turnout in Louisville," Gray said.
An understatement, in an election cycle that has all but shattered standards for hyperbole.